29th March 2021

Male applicants face discrimination when applying for female-dominated roles


Gender bias is a big discussion point in the recruitment industry; the disadvantages women face when applying for traditionally male-dominated roles is firmly on the agenda. But the challenges men face in predominantly female industries are talked about much less.

A new study in the journal Plos One has revealed that male gender stereotyping is a real problem in the job application process. Researchers from two universities created over 3,000 faux applications and sent them to employers in Sweden. They found no bias when women’s CVs were put forward for jobs such as truck drivers, IT developers and mechanics. But when they submitted men’s profiles for roles in childcare, cleaning, nursing and preschool teaching, those applications were much less likely to progress to the next round of hiring.

These findings raise a valuable point for recruitment consultants: how can you take steps to reduce gender bias in the hiring process? And what can you do to help male candidates secure jobs in traditionally female industries?

Judging candidates on their CV alone

The impact of bias is something we’re very passionate about at ETZ. In September last year, we published a blog post on the business cost of gender inequality, after McKinsey Global Institute revealed that closing the gap would add more than £9 billion to the economy.

For recruiters, striving for genderless recruitment makes both moral and mathematical sense. It liberates you to find the best person for the job, get commission for the service you’ve provided – and then the success of that appointment encourages clients to use you more in future.

But how do you increase gender equality in recruitment? It starts by ensuring that candidates are judged on the strength of their CV, and nothing else.

One simple way to avoid bias is to remove people’s names from their resumé, along with any other details that may identify them as male or female.

Your business can also work proactively within industries that are traditionally considered more suitable to one gender, to break down stereotypes. There are lots of initiatives in place already: WomeninTech is an inclusive digital networking platform, for example. CEO and Co-Founder, Caroline Ramade, launched it with the aim of ensuring that half the technology workforce are women by 2050.

Tackling unconscious bias head-on

Opening the lines of communication is another way in which to promote equality. Many individuals and organisations don’t realise they are favouring one gender over another – but unconscious bias can still be incredibly damaging.

Talk to your clients about the type of candidates they look for, and the professional qualities they prioritise. Do they tend to see them as strengths that women or men are naturally better at? Gently challenge their recruitment values and processes, by helping them to see the financial and skills benefits of employing someone who doesn’t fit into their existing template.

It’s often a useful exercise to analyse the diversity of employees within your clients’ workforce, to understand the current ratio of women to men. You can contrast this with their recruitment data – is it because most applications come from one gender? Or is it that they have a track record of hiring women over men, and vice versa?

Work with your candidates too, to show them why being the gender minority in a certain field is a positive attribute. Having the confidence to acknowledge that they aren’t a ‘typical’ hire can help them to stand out at interview. Companies who are aware that they’re stuck in the same recruitment habits are more likely to take a fresh perspective.

Make gender diversity a business priority

Creating more opportunities for gender diversity in recruitment is an ongoing challenge, and the more resource your agency puts into equality programmes, the more you’ll get in return.

The best way to ensure the right person secures the role – regardless of their gender – is to prioritise strategies for equal hiring. But many recruiters simply can’t devote adequate time to these initiatives. In this sense, removing bias from the hiring process isn’t just an ideological change; it’s a practical one too.

ETZ works with recruitment agencies across the UK and Australia to reduce the time and effort they spend on back office tasks, so they can focus on the bigger industry issues that they’re really passionate about.

Our recruitment software integrates and streamlines every element of running a recruitment business – timesheets, invoices, payroll and compliance – using automating technology, to reduce the admin burden being placed on employees.

We give recruiters more time, resources and budget to put into strategic activities, which create opportunities for business growth. So however gender inequality is impacting your agency, you can make addressing the balance your number one goal.

ETZ reduces recruitment agency back office costs by up to 85%. Book your free demo to find out more.

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